Family still petitioning for paralyzed boy's stepfather to return to the United States

SPRINGDALE, Ohio -- Sandra Mendoza hasn't seen Yancarlos Mendez since the chilly February afternoon she married him in the Morrow County Jail. She has no idea when they'll meet again.

"It's really hard," she said Monday from the floral-patterned couch at Wang Law. In a wheelchair beside Mendoza, her son, Ricky Solis, played tablet games with his chin propped on one hand.

A 2017 car crash left 6-year-old Ricky partially paralyzed and in need of a full-time caretaker. Shattered, Mendoza told her then-boyfriend, Mendez, that he was free to leave them if he wasn't ready to assume the responsibility of caring for a disabled child.

Instead of running, he proposed to her and trained to become Ricky's medically certified caretaker. As they prepared for their wedding, the pair split the work of helping Ricky through his daily life and supporting their household.

"When he was with us, he was doing half, I was doing half," she said. "It was like teamwork."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested Mendez Nov. 29, 2017, after discovering he had overstayed a 2015 Spanish visa and remained in the United States illegally. Mendoza attempted to file a petition for a stay of deportation but was denied because she and Mendez lacked a legal relationship.

Although the couple hoped their jailhouse wedding would give them a stronger legal standing to contest his deportation, authorities sent Mendez to the Dominican Republic (one of two countries in which he has citizenship) shortly after the marriage.

Ricky's condition means Mendoza cannot travel to visit her husband, she explained Monday. Their only hope of reunion is continuing to appeal Mendez's deportation.

"We hope that the court can rule on the humanitarian equities of the case, what is humanitarian and fair beyond a strict reading of the law," attorney Charleston Wang said.

After trying so many times to stop the deportation before it happened, all Mendoza and her son can do is hope.

"We're praying," she said. "We hope they will give him that chance."

"I want my daddy back," Ricky said.

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